Could everyday fragrances and scented products be causing widespread health problems? According to one author, the evidence suggests they are.

An Australian writer who discovered she was one of many people suffering from a reaction to perfumes says we need to consider regulating the industry. Award-winning author Kate Grenville says research for her latest book, The Case Against Fragrance, began after she realized perfumes were giving her headaches. Looking into the problem, she found it was widespread.

"One in three people have some sort of health problem from fragrance, either headaches or asthma, very common asthma trigger, nausea or various other symptoms.”

This interview comes courtesy of Radio New Zealand.

Grenville says a study from Melbourne University suggested about 35 percent of people were affected by scents, with other possible effects including hormone disruption and even cancer. The problem is to do with the chemicals created in the manufacture of perfumed products, she says.

"Essential oils cost about a thousand times more than the comparable synthetics. Even though many of these chemicals are well known scientifically to be irritants of various kinds, and possibly worse, they don't have to be tested before they're put on the market. The ingredients do not have to be fully declared on the label.

"Just the one word ‘fragrance’ [or ‘parfum’] can cover up to a couple of hundred chemicals. And frighteningly ... the only real regulation is by the fragrance industry itself."

It was only when she began trying to avoid scented and perfumed products that Grenville realized how prevalent they were. The American Lung Association, she says, “classes air fresheners as an indoor air pollutant”, due to the impact they have on asthmatics.

"I don't know where we go with it,” says Grenville, “but I wanted to start the conversation."

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